Employees can often benefit from a mentor to keep them on track for success and career development. This is where an employee mentoring program can be useful for both junior and more senior employees alike.
What is mentoring and how does it differ from coaching?
Before we look at the benefits of employee mentoring it is important differentiate between coaching and mentoring. The coach's role tends to be to show you what to do and provide you with answers. On the other hand, a mentor is someone who discusses things with you, helps to widen your perspective, encourages you to think of and evaluate different options and solutions, helps identify obstacles you need to overcome and acts as an impartial sounding board. When you work with a mentor, you make your own decisions and find your solutions.
It is a popular misconception that mentorships involve senior employees giving guidance to junior employees; mentors do not necessarily have to be more senior than the people they mentor. The best mentoring relationships involve someone who has the desired skills and traits sharing with someone who wants to learn them.
Without a mentor, it can be hard to focus on a career path
Forbes recently spotlighted that around 16% of people kick-start their New Year with career-focused resolutions. Regrettably, the data also points towards only 46% of those who made such commitments managing to maintain them after six months.
Many of these resolutions may well have failed because the employee failed to have a proper plan in place. In a lot of these cases, a mentor would almost certainly have helped keep the employee on track with their career objectives.
To make career ambitions or resolutions a reality, it's crucial to define proper objectives. A helpful method is to use the SMART Goals framework to establish feasible, reachable targets:
- Specific: Clearly outline what you aim to achieve. Instead of a vague goal like "Improve my communication skills", opt for "Boost my communication skills by conversing with a new colleague weekly." Remember, networking, both with clients and colleague, is important for advancing your career. Another specific career goal might be 'Secure a promotion to a managerial position in my department by the end of the next financial year.'
- Measurable: How will you gauge success? A target like "Engage with a new team member each week" is quantifiable, unlike a broad goal of "Improve my communication skills."
- Achievable: Your goal should challenge you, but it also needs to be something that's within your control and capabilities. It could be 'Complete a professional certification course in digital marketing within the next six months.'
- Realistic: Set goals in areas where you hold some sway. Avoid setting targets that could be entirely derailed by external factors. So, for instance, this might be 'Establish a stronger professional network by attending at least one industry-related event each month.'
Setting career timelines
A goal should always incorporate a timeline to monitor progress and guarantee completion in a feasible period. People typically juggle various goals—long-term, mid-term, and short-term—that often interconnect and a career mentor can help to clarify the goals and good timescales to aim for. For instance, a five-year objective might be a promotion to a specific role, supported by short-term goals like enhancing communication skills, which are vital for long-term success.
How a mentor can help with your career
Creating a career strategy might seem like a daunting job, but it becomes a lot more manageable with the support of a career mentor.
Short, mid, and long-term goals collectively compose a career plan, the creation of which can be made more manageable with a mentor's assistance. A mentor helps to:
- Discuss and set long-term objectives
- Identify corresponding short-term goals,
- Capitalize on strengths and opportunities,
- Addresses weaknesses and potential obstacles.
Mentors help keep the goal achievement process on track, celebrating milestones and maintaining focus. Offering an unbiased perspective, mentors may suggest unconsidered paths to goal attainment, provide honest feedback, and act as a sounding board for ideas.
Does career mentoring really work?
If done correctly, having a mentor in place can significantly help to advance your career over time. According to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, an impressive 75% of executives credit mentoring as a crucial factor in their professional advancement.
Career Mentorship Perks
Career mentorship has many perks for employees and companies, including:
- Knowledge Transfer: Linking up with industry or organisation professionals can fast-track learning and ease the steepness of the learning curve.
- Honesty: While ego-boosting is great, constructive criticism fosters personal and professional growth. Mentors offer this honest feedback, spotlighting areas for improvement.
- Encouragement: Mentors provide the necessary push to keep going during tough times, helping mentees see the brighter side of challenging situations.
- Trusted Advisor: Acting as a sounding board for ideas, mentors offer unbiased opinions that can spark creativity. They provide a confidential space for discussing aspirations, ideas, and concerns, making mentees feel valued.
- Avoiding Mistakes: Although learning from mistakes is effective, sidestepping them is even better. Mentors, with their prior experiences, can guide mentees around potential pitfalls.
How common is career mentorship?
The UK jobs site, Monster.co.uk carried out some recent research showing that around three quarters of Brits lack a career mentor. Here are some sobering statistics:
- 72% of Brits don't have a mentor to help guide them through their careers
- Over a quarter of respondents (28%) said they wanted a mentor,
- Nearly a fifth (19%) admitted they have no idea how to go about finding a career mentor.
- A further 9% say even though they're actively looking for a mentor they haven't been able to find the right person.
The survey also revealed that those working in a smaller company were most likely to have a mentor, or want one.
Those starting out in their careers were most likely to want a mentor. As you would expect, the number of people wanting mentors reduced with age:
- 41% of 18-35 year olds said they would like a mentor,
- 27-50 year olds 27% wanted a mentor
- Those aged 50+ who wanted mentors fell to 14%.
Career mentoring helps with equality and confidence at work
A fifth of HR professionals polled agreed that introducing a workplace mentoring program would help towards achieving gender equality in businesses, it's also widely acknowledged that programs like this work to improve self-confidence amongst participants.
The research found that the UK is trailing behind its EU counterparts when it comes to supporting mentoring, with those who have mentors differing widely between countries:
- 63% of French employees,
- 59% of German employees
- 56% in the Netherlands
- 28% in the UK.
Employees and HR both agree that business need to do more to build mentoring into the fabric of the company. After all studies have shown that this leads to a more confident, empowered and productive workforce and significantly improves retention of employees. It's a win, win.
"Everyone could benefit from the increased career confidence being mentored offers, and our research shows that young people in particular are crying out for one. Finding a mentor can help you lay out your goals and receive advice from someone who has 'been there, done it'. However, the main hurdle people face is finding a mentor in the first place and having the tools and confidence to approach them."
VP of Marketing Europe at Monster.co.uk, Sinead Bunting
How career mentoring helps companies attract and keep staff
Mentoring programs can undoubtedly be used to attract talent as part of a recruitment process. They can be a part of an organisation's employee value proposition (EVP) to show that the company values employee development and that it will invest in new recruits' future careers.
Employees need to feel valued and nurtured in order to ensure that they stay engaged and maintain performance. Talent management and mentoring programs can play a vital role in doing just that.
A mentoring program can be invaluable at all stages of a career
- Mentoring — both having a mentor and being a mentor - can prove invaluable for those later in their careers, not just those on their way up.
- Mentoring ambitious young people helps the mentor to create a network of rising professionals who can help inform them and make valuable connections for them.
- Mentoring helps the mentor to keep in touch with the younger generation. As a leader of any institution, knowing the next generation's perspective can greatly influence the leader's thinking. A rising professional in her 20s, for example, might have a very different perspective on achieving gender equality than their older contemporaries have. Mentoring gives the mentor access to people of different backgrounds, with different perspectives, which can help to influence the mentor's own thinking.
- Mentoring younger people can also give a mentor optimism about the future. It connects the mentor to people who not only care about their careers and professions but about trying to improve the world. It gives the mentor insight into how younger generations work, talk, and communicate. And on occasion it gives the mentor access to someone who can help them work out their iPhone!
Five ways mentoring can benefit a Mentor's career
Encouragement from a mentor can be critical to success, particularly for early-career professionals. But what's in it for the mentor?
- Mentoring helps the mentor become a more effective leader
A mentoring experience can help the mentor develop their own leadership skills which the mentor can then use to advise, coach and develop their own staff.
Better understanding their own experience
To a mentor, their experiences may seem quite ordinary but when they participate in a mentoring program they will see how beneficial and helpful those experiences can be to those who are upcoming in their profession. It also helps to transfer knowledge within and organisation and aid succession planning.
Mentoring hones the mentor's transferable skill-set
Mentoring teaches the mentor how to accommodate others' ways of thinking and working.
Mentoring takes the mentor out of their comfort zone
Mentoring gives the mentor the chance to get out of their comfort zone and use their expertise in other areas. It also improves their listening skills and helps them to use their listening skills to improve their ability to give guidance.
The rewards of a mentoring relationship are a two-way street
The mentor will learn that they don't have to be in the exact same discipline to be helpful to a mentee. They will find that mentees have a lot to offer the mentor—they may find themselves learning from the mentee.
Mentoring isn't just about helping other people or about being altruistic, it can make better managers and better leaders. Mentoring therefore remains important throughout life.
Keep staff happy and motivated throughout their careers
It can clearly be seen that investment in staff through mentoring programs and talent management initiatives can enable staff to feel happy, valued and motivated. Helping employees to develop their skills can lead to increased productivity as well as increased profitability and growth.
Conversely, if organisations don't invest in their staff, don't listen to them, don't train them and don't communicate with them, then they will lose their talent and their knowledge. This approach will hold the organisation back, because extra time and money will have to be continually spent on replenishing the 'work pool'. This can cost more than investing in staff mentoring and talent management, as well as reduce organisational ROI.
If you think a mentoring program would be beneficial in your organisation get in touch for a no obligation demonstration of our mentoring platform.